Monday, 26 April 2010

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels (1)

Amy: 'She's Mrs Doctor from the future, isn't she? Is she gonna be your wife one day?'

What a difference seven days makes, not to mention a change of writer. Tonight's story was a marked improvement over last week's: there were mysteries galore, dialogue to die for, and the characters actually felt real again. In short, nothing jarred, and all the main leads sparkled. After the blip that was 'Victory of the Daleks', Doctor Who feels well and truly back on track.

Resurrecting old foes/characters is a risky business, particularly when they're from stories generally considered fan favourites. 'Blink' was the dark horse of season three, with its creepy angels and intriguing female lead (sympathetically played by the Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan). Similarly, 'Silence in the Library' and 'Forest of the Dead' had much to recommend them, as both had great storylines, magnificent suspense, and, significantly, introduced us to River Song (the Doctor's wife/girlfriend/fellow Time Lord... delete as you see fit). So there was definitely scope for follow up stories—unfinished business, if ye will—but sandwiching them together and following them up simultaneously was a veritable master-stroke on Moffat's part.

All the TV rags this week were talking about the 'surprise return' of River Song. A surprise for the Doctor maybe—but not for us, as she was in last week's trailer, and her picture has been all over the press for days. So for the viewing public it was a complete non-surprise, but having Alex Kingston back on our screens is always good news (both for the show and for me). I've always had a soft spot for Dr. Corday, and they played upon Song's ambiguous relationship with the Doctor magnificently. The nature of their 'friendship' has been the subject of much speculation these past few years, and nobody can deny they act like an old married couple: with the non stop bickering and the unrelenting put downs. Even the constantly attempted one-upmanship felt freakishly familiar.

Yet we're still no further forwards in uncovering Song's true identity. Amy, to her credit, asked the Doctor outright 'Is Song your future wife?' and, at first, the Doctor seemed to answer in the affirmative. Except, of course, he was answering a completely different question, and thus answered sod all. Does the Doctor know who Song is? He must have an inkling. At the very least, he knows what calibre of person he'd reveal his true name to, but his reluctance to get drawn into Song's life (spoilers) conveniently prevented him from asking her outright.

Amy, ostensibly, had more success. She did get some answers—they just didn't mean anything. At first Song seemed to imply that she wasn't the Doctor's wife ('Could it be anything that simple?') and then, conversely, seemed to hint that she was ('Oh, you're good'). So the answer so far seems to be yes, no, no and yes. Which leaves us back where we started—with a big fat 'I don't know'.

What we do know is that Song's a criminal of sorts, or has at least spent time behind bars. That's new. But why would the knowledge of who she is stop the Doctor from helping her? Is she up to something that the Doctor would disapprove of? Let's face it, those clerics felt decidedly dodgy. Or is she somehow playing the Doctor by making him think that she's someone she's not, in order to secure his trust? And what was that injection she gave Amy? Was it really a viro-stabiliser? We know that Song turns out to be a good guy in the end, and eventually dies for the Doctor ('Forest of the Dead'), but who is she now?

Expanding the Angel's mythology, I though, worked nicely. I was initially worried about Moffat bringing back the Weeping Angels. 'Blink' was such an unmitigated success, that it was hard to imagine a sequel being anywhere near as good. Maybe the Angels were destined to be one hit wonders. The Ood were effective in 'The Impossible Planet' but I grew sick of them in subsequent stories, proving that you can have too much of a good thing. But the Angels worked well as a returning foe. Having Amy locked up with one of them was as suspenseful as we could have hoped for, and once again Amy showed great ingenuity in extricating herself from certain, neck-snapping death. She hit the pause button during a break in the loop. Nice bit of deduction that—which the Doctor did acknowledge, before delegating the job of the congratulatory/consoling hug to Song.

So what's the story with Amy's eye? If eyes are not the windows to the soul, but doors, then what's she got herself into—or more correctly, what got into her? ? And why oh why, when Song asked whether she was okay, did Amy say 'fine'? Stone dust has just come out of your fucking eye, Amy! How can that possibly be fine—particularly after being specifically warned not to look into the Angel's eyes. If I were her, I'd have come clean, and then crossed my fingers that someone would know what to do. Just in case... oh, I don't know, I started turning into stone or something. Which of course she eventually did. Except that she didn't... but kind of did. Did Song know that Amy was lying? Did she know that Amy had somehow become infected/possessed and that was why she gave her the injection? All will be revealed next week, no doubt. Or it won't. It probably won't, will it? Bah!

And well done Amy for trying to blink one eye at a time (although that's less blinking, more winking). I remember watching 'Blink' for the first time and trying to do the exact same thing. It seemed like the most obvious solution to the problem. And it is possible—it's just horrendously unnatural. I liked Amy a lot this week. Last week she felt like a spare part, always stood in the background, never really doing anything—tonight, all the main players shone. Amy was useful, intelligent and humorous, and Matt Smith was completely hilarious. His impression of the TARDIS was an absolute hoot! The way (mid-impression) he looked at Amy for support—only to have her frown at him as though he'd gone completely mad, was both beautifully written and perfectly acted.

Other Thoughts:

—I must confess, I spent ages trying to work how River Song had managed to come back from the dead. Then I remembered that, despite being in the Doctor's future, they were actually in Song's past. As the Doctor said, they keep meeting in the wrong order. D'oh!

—Nice cameo from Mike Skinner (from The Streets). Dry your eyes, mate. Or maybe just wipe your mouth.

—How does Song know Old High Gallifreyan? And how does she know how to fly the TARDIS? If she didn't learn from the Doctor, then who is this 'the best' she's referring to?

—We learnt all sorts of TARDIS nonsense tonight. It has brakes. It has a blue stabiliser button. It can create and maintain an air corridor—which is presumably how Song managed to survive being blasted out into space.

—No cracks in the the skin of the universe this week. Phew!

—This was apparently the first episode of season five to be filmed. Which actually surprised me. I thought Matt and Karen were brilliant in it.

—What was an animated Graham Norton doing screwing up the climax of the episode? Talk about gay agenda ;o)


Doctor: 'There were days. There were many days, these words could burn stars, and raise up empires and topple Gods.'
Amy: 'What does it say?'
Doctor: 'Hello Sweetie.'

Doctor: 'Yeah, well its just boring now, isn't it. They're boring-ers. Just blue boring-ers.'
Amy: 'How comes you can fly the TARDIS?'
Doctor: 'Oh, I had lessons from the very best.'
Doctor: 'Well. Yeah.'
Song: 'It's a shame you were busy that day.'

Amy: 'Oh Doctor. You soniced her!'

Doctor: 'It's a long story and I don't know most of it.'

Amy: 'Oh, you are Mr Grumpy Face today.'

Amy: 'Is River Song your wife?'

River: 'Incredible builders, the Aplans.'
Doctor: 'I had dinner with their chief architects once. Two heads are better than one.'
Amy: 'What? You mean you helped them?'
Doctor: 'Er, no. I mean they had two heads.'

Doctor: 'Wonderful species the Aplans. We should visit them sometime.'
Amy: 'I thought they were all dead.'
Doctor: 'So is Virginia Wolfe. I'm on her bowling team.'

Amy: 'I don't need you to die for me Doctor. Do I look that clingy?'

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